Photos: Sean Haffey Getty Images for Ironman

By Kent Gray/
During Ironman New Zealand in early March, the boisterous “Team Hammy” support crew popped up at various locales around Taupo waving a sign that read: “Underdogs always find a way”.

The encouragement undoubtedly helped spur Ben Hamilton on to a surprise 3rd in the 40th anniversary edition of the world’s second oldest full distance Ironman. The secret of the pro cyclist turned pro triathlete was out, at least to an unsuspecting domestic audience.

But how would the 25-year-old Aucklander go on the international stage in unfamiliar surrounds, especially in fields deeper still than Taupo?

Fast-forward to Sunday and we had an emphatic and hugely encouraging answer when Hamilton finished runner-up to American superstar Sam Long at Ironman 70.3 St George.

The underdog had found a way again, even if the cameras mostly missed it. But more on that soon. For now… allow us to let this sink in.

Ben Hamilton, you just got second at the North American Ironman 70.3 Championships and have a cool US$7000 (NZ$11,646) and 2045 Ironman Pro Series points to show for it. You’re 43rd in the overall men’s standings, right behind countryman and former world championship bronze medallist Braden Currie who has already started two races.

Pretty cool, huh?

“Obviously it was a great day and I’m very happy with it,” Hamilton told from Utah, employing a hearty dose of trademark understatement.

“I had great preparation leading up to the race and some great training, so I was confident in what I could do, but it’s lining up against a really strong field. I was not sure how I was going to stack up and go against the rest of them.”

Aside from Long who was in a league of his own, repeating as St George champion in a course record time of 3:39:17, Hamilton’s 3:46:52 effort stacked up better than everyone else.

As a former cyclist, swimming was almost inevitably going to be Hamilton’s Achilles heel when he turned to triathlon. But now, less than a year in the pro ranks, he seems to be doing just fine in the wet stuff.

“The swim was okay, pretty compact start and lots of crashing and bashing and I thought I was actually having not such a good swim and then came out and heard my time of 24.30ish and was pleasantly surprised with how it went,” said Hamilton who officially clocked 24:55 for the 1.9km.

Sam Long crosses the finish line tat the 2024 Intermountain Health IRONMAN 70.3 North American Championship in typical Sam Long fashion.

Hamilton was 22nd out of the water and quickly went to work on the bike, eventually making up 16 spots.

“It’s quite a hilly course here, I think over a thousand metres of climbing, so I was really looking forward to it and got stuck in and got a ride with a nice group of guys on the bike and made some progress.

“I was in a group of four after a pretty hard first 30 to 45 minutes and then everyone was kind of conserving a bit until Snow Canyon.  I rode strong up Snow Canyon and then [had a] downhill run to the finish and I came off the bike in 6th place, so moved up 16 spots throughout the bike so I was pretty happy to be starting the run in 6th.

“I knew I had a really good run preparation, so I was looking forward to it…and I could see roughly where the guys were at the start, so I just found my rhythm and my pace of what I could sustain and slowly picked them off.”

One by one Hamilton gobbled up the four runners ahead of him – Long was out of sight and eventually won by 7mins 35s – although the camera crews clearly got confused when he moved into second place and missed much of the latter stages of his 1:13:40 half marathon.

“They must have thought I was on my first lap because they didn’t put a lead bike with me or anything, so that’s why the coverage wasn’t so great for me on the run… at least the tracker knew where I was,” Hamilton explained.

While the global spotlight fell to Long and women’s winner Paula Findlay after the Canadian won by nearly 2½ minutes over Aussie Ellie Salthouse, Hamilton had every right to be “very happy”.

Paula Findlay won in 4:09:27.

“It’s my best 70.3 result to date, it’s my first international podium as a pro and obviously my first pro race was in June last year, so technically haven’t been racing pro for more than 12 months, which is really cool,” he said.

“North American Champs is obviously a big race, so I’m pretty happy with that and got some good Ironman Pro Series points and hopefully some good PTO points too, so we’ll see my ranking go up across the board.”

This must give you huge confidence as you look ahead to your next scheduled start at Ironman Cairns, the Asia Pacific Championships, on June 16?

“I executed today how I wanted to, everything that I had hoped would happen did, no mishaps, so yeah, really positive,” Hamilton said.

“Happy with how my training went and the lead up and got my fuelling right on the day, chose my moments to exert my energy and followed the right moves out there mainly on the bike to set myself up in a good position on the run to be able to run those guys down, so yeah, very happy.”

Ironman 70.3 North American Championship
St George, Utah
May 4, 2024

Comments are closed.